In a recent television ad for a cell phone service, potential customers are shown as being afraid of “hidden fees,” “funny business,” and “bamboozling.” The agent asks, “What is bamboozling?” A potential customer says, “It’s like malarkey.”
The ad bothers me because bamboozling is a gerund and malarkey is an ordinary noun. I’d prefer something like this:
Agent: What is bamboozling?
Customer: It’s trying to trick us by feeding us a bunch of malarkey.
But then, I suppose the extra words would drive up the price of the ad.
The verb bamboozle is noted in English as early as 1700, in a Tatler article complaining about the invasion of slang terms. The OED definition of the verb bamboozle is “to deceive by trickery; to perplex or confuse.”
The definition in Merriam-Webster is, “to conceal one’s true motives from someone, especially by elaborately feigning good intentions so as to gain an end or achieve an advantage.”
The first OED citation for malarkey is 1924; the most recent, 2000. It’s defined as “humbug, bunkum, nonsense.”
Malarkey is any idea or utterance seen as “trivial, misleading, or not worthy of consideration.” M-W defines malarkey as “insincere or pretentious talk or writing designed to impress one and usually to distract attention from ulterior motives or actual conditions.”
A person intent on bamboozling someone might employ malarkey in the effort to deceive, but bamboozling and malarkey are not quite synonyms.
Synonyms for the verb bamboozle:
Synonyms for the noun malarkey: